Could 'finish in four years' emphasis harm higher education?
- Missouri higher education officials have debuted a new program to encourage four-year degree completion at state institutions: the '15 to Finish' initiative which encourages students to take 15 credit hours per semester to reduce costs and expedite graduation.
- Some observers say it is difficult for learners with outside obligations, like work, to successfully complete 15 credit hours per semester, and could negate the benefits tied to the initiative, such as cost reduction and financial incentives for students on pace to complete in four years.
- Officials say the program will work with students on an individual basis to assess completion strategies and goals.
There is an internal struggle between colleges making sure that graduates are not being passed through to graduation and the notion that many learners have financial or academic capacity to handle a 15-hour course load. While it is the traditional path to completion in four years, it does not account for new models of learning such as competency-based education or experiential credits, many of which require longer completion times for adult and continuing learners.
Additionally, state budget cuts may make offering certain courses every semester a challenge for many students, some of whom are derailed not by cost or competency, but simply the fact that a professor may not be available for a class that is a core requirement. Legislators and school executives should work together to determine how summer offerings, mini-semesters and online learning may be used to supplement completion efforts, in addition to usual full-time status assessment in preparing students for the workforce.
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch Missouri pushes initiative for students to take more classes and graduate quicker